If you were on Facebook a month or so ago there was a game going on where you named ten musical acts you saw in concert with one being a lie. Your friends commented with which one they thought was the lie. I decided to do a perfume version where I listed ten long lost perfumes that were extremely difficult to get. My friends are pretty smart and many of them figured out the one which I did not own a bottle of was Jean Patou Lasso.
Lasso was the Jean Patou perfume which has fallen so far through the cracks that it is also very difficult for me to confirm any of the details. It isn’t even listed in the Fragrances of the World database it is so lost. Going by many places on the internet the year of release has been listed as 1936, 1956, and “sometime in the 1960’s”. The perfumer is also impossible to track down although if it was released in 1936 it seems likely it would be Henri Almeras. If it was 1956 Henri Giboulet is most likely as he did 1955’s Eau de Joy and 1964’s Caline. Then in a fantastic article on Fragrantica Sergey Borisov says it is Guy Robert. What’s correct? Nobody is left to unambiguously clear it up.
The only thing I know is Lasso exists. Thanks to some kind friends I have generous samples even though in my “gotta have them all” desire to have a bottle of every Jean Patou perfume my collection has a Lasso-sized hole in it. Lasso is not the greatest Jean Patou fragrance it is not even in the top 10 overall. The reason for that is it is the most derivative perfume within the entire collection. When I use a simple descriptive phrase for Lasso I call it a violet-hued butch version of Guerlain Mitsouko. I like it because the violet and leather improve the aldehydes and peach to something different but not so far that, in particular, the opening is very recognizable.
Lasso opens with the aldehydes and peach doing their fizzy fruity dance. The violet comes forth with the same presence as rose and jasmine. This is a classic power floral heart accord typical of any of the decades Lasso is presumed to come from. What becomes the biggest change is a beautifully soft leather accord which envelops the early accords in a sexy refined embrace. This leather imparts a more overt sexuality to Lasso than there is in Mitsouko. The base is a classic chypre again as was seen during the timeframe which Lasso existed in. Which means musky sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, and vetiver. Overall it leaves an effect of Lasso being a scent of seduction.
Lasso has 14-16 hour longevity and way above average sillage.
One of the saddest byproducts of incessant reformulation is it trivializes the past. There are brands which have continued to sell perfume for almost one hundred years. The problem lies as each iteration and new flanker appears that glorious history becomes trampled underneath mediocrity. One of the great contemporary early perfume brands is Lanvin. During the 1930’s it was the equal of Guerlain or Chanel. Where the latter two brands have taken that history and created a legacy; Lanvin has not. Which makes the original releases all that much harder to find.
UPDATE: One of the best things about writing these pieces is I sometimes get more information than I could find on my own. Nicolas Chabot of Le Galion Perfume contacted me to let me know that Paul Vacher was the in-house perfumer at Lanvin at the time Scandal was released. Andre Fraysse was Jean Lanvin's nephew and was working as M. Vacher's assistant. Paul Vacher would leave Lanvin in 1935. The release date is still not clear I have found sources which list 1931, 1932, 1933, and 1935. M. Chabot has documentation which says 1933. The paragraph below has been changed to reflect this new information.
Lanvin’s in-house perfumers' follow-up to Arpege was called Scandal. Perfumer Paul Vacher and his assistant Andre Fraysse who pioneered the use of aldehydes in Arpege would now go for their own take on leather with Scandal. As we moved into the 1930’s leather based perfumes had become the rage. Each of the brands was working on their own version. This interpretation was to wrap it in a fantastic floral cape. That intense heart is what makes Scandal stand out.
Scandal opens with a shot of clary sage. The original note list has a set of citrus notes but in the three different vintage samples I have acquired those notes have not survived. What does remain is mostly the clary sage carrying an herbal bite. A very demure neroli begins the floral transition as orris and rose combine in the heart. These two florals are enhanced to their highest levels. The orris is opulent velvet. The rose is decadently spicy. Together they are amazing and then the perfumers unleash their leather accord. I used to own a well-cared for and oiled genuine bullwhip. I would take it down from time to time and swing it about my head; snapping it with a satisfying crack. The more I did it the more the leather gave off this heated by friction leather smell. That is the leather accord at the heart of Scandal. I have never smelled one like it in any other leather fragrance. Together with the florals the heart of Scandal reeks of danger ahead. Those hazards are delightfully animalic as Scandal uses civet as a core to coalesce vetiver, oakmoss, and benzoin around. The civet is ferocious and the complementary notes do nothing to tame that. They instead herd it towards the leather leaving the final hours of Scandal to consume you.
Scandal has 18-24 hour longevity and way above average sillage.
Scandal was discontinued in the early 1970’s. It has become very difficult to find. I have only come into my samples due to the generosity of people who have supplied me with samples from the bottles they probably paid a lot of money for.
When I smell these leather perfumes of the 1930’s I imagine attending a soiree where the women are wearing these fragrances. I think the one wearing Scandal is the one who would have my full attention.
Disclosure: This review is based on three samples of Scandal which were given to me.
Whenever I have the opportunity to try something from the Osmotheque I am petrified there will be something I love that I can’t find. My very first experience with this came when I attended Esxence in 2011. There Patricia de Nicolai of the Osmotheque had brought a traveling case of many of the faithful reconstructions from Versailles to Milan. Over the course of the four days of the fair I kept going back and asking to try something else. Everything I had tried had been good but I didn’t have to have one. Then Mme de Nicolai handed me a strip of F. Millot Crepe de Chine and I was lost.
Crepe de Chine made its debut at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels in 1925. This was the coming out for Art Deco as a movement across multiple artistic endeavors. Fragrance was well represented by Jean Patou who had some of the most beautiful Art Deco bottles of the time. Guerlain Shalimar also appeared. F. Millot wanted to join the party and also came up with an Art Deco inspired flacon. The perfume to go in it was Crepe de Chine composed by Jean Desprez. Thirty-seven years prior to the perfume M. Desprez is most known for Bal a Verailles. Most people aren’t even aware he did another fragrance. It is always my pleasure to introduce fans of Bal a Versailles to M. Desprez’s “other” fragrance.
What makes Crepe de Chine so memorable for me is the jasmine at its heart. I love my jasmine as funky as it can get. I want the indoles to be front and center. It is why that kind of jasmine is so perfect as part of a chypre. Which is what Crepe de Chine is. The source of the jasmine has been reputed to be the famous Jasmine de Grasse but I can only find anecdotal confirmation of that. The jasmine used is high quality; that I only need my nose for.
Crepe de Chine opens on a fizz of aldehydes carrying one of the sharper bergamots I have found. It is like popping a champagne cork and the liquid comes flowing out in a gush. That’s the opening moments. Then the jasmine arrives. Oh my does it arrive. It comes in and takes over the joint. This is that woman who is also an unattainable object of desire. It is gorgeous, experienced, and intelligent. Her friends ylang-ylang and lilac only deepen that impression. Then we get the chypre base of vetiver, oakmoss, patchouli, and musk. This is a chypre accord with all of the bite you could ask for. Matched with the jasmine it is exquisite.
Crepe de Chine has 6-8 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.
Obviously Crepe de Chine was meant to be a women’s perfume. The ad above captures that even in 1963 it was for a very certain kind of woman. On the days I wear this though I get the same response from the women who smell it on me. I think if I was ever to be out looking for a good time again Crepe de Chine might very well be my choice for a night on the town.
The review above comes from the Osmotheque version. I have since acquired two very well-preserved bottles and they lack some of the brightness but surprisingly more than a little of the aldehydes have persevered. The jasmine has aged like a femme fatale in her middle years; still dangerous and much more experienced. One accord I have found time and again in the vintage bottles I own which stands the ravages of time is the chypre accord and it is true in Crepe de Chine.
If you’re looking to acquire a bottle the best is to get one which is still sealed and the juice has a greenish tint to it. If the juice is very dark stay away it has been exposed to way too much light and oxygen. These bottles show up on the online auction sites often but Crepe de Chine is one of the perfumes which does not handle poor storage well. Be very careful if you decide to chase one down.
If this review has piqued your interest to try Crepe de Chine I am sorry I have done to you what Mme de Nicolai did in 2011 to me.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I have purchased.
When I hear people say things like they don’t make perfumes like they used to I usually respond quite vociferously that we live in a golden age of perfumery right now. I do believe that there are a very few perfumes which have never had a modern equivalent that stands up to the comparison. One of those is the first fragrance to carry the Hermes name on the flacon.
About thirty years prior to the Hermes fragrance collection we are familiar with coming into being there was one lone perfume. In 1955 Hermes commissioned perfumer Guy Robert to create a perfume for the brand. That perfume was called Doblis. Then, as now, Hermes was known for its leather goods and silk scarves. M. Robert wanted to capture both of those influences. The early going has a cool green shiny silk sheen before transitioning through a floral heart into one of the most transparent leather accords I have ever experienced.
Doblis opens with a trio of coriander, thyme, and chamomile. There are also a halo of aldehydes fizzing above all of this. The herbal notes provide a warming influence for the chamomile. The top accord is really a chamomile construct made modern by the addition of the aldehydes and herbs. The chamomile joins with jasmine and rose in the heart. This is where Doblis feels like a silk scarf with a floral print. The herbal notes provide a sort of green shine over the florals. It often feels like an olfactory illusion when I wear it. If I concentrate on it the notes become apparent and the mirage dissipates only to arise again once I just let it work its magic. I wish I could tell you what M. Robert used to form his leather accord. The best way I can describe it is as the finest pair of Hermes riding gloves after being worn in a walk through a stand of oak trees. The base of Doblis is a singular leather accord matched with oakmoss and musk. It is this moment where I wonder to myself if they can make perfumes like they used to.
Doblis has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
Doblis was supplanted by Caleche in 1961 as the standard bearer of fragrance for Hermes. It briefly made a re-appearance in 2005 as Guy Robert’s son Francois oversaw the re-formulation. I can say that version is every bit as good as the original. This is another of those perfumes which commands extremely high prices when it appears on the auction circuit. If you don’t have oodles of money the sample site Surrender to Chance has some samples for sale, although these are still pricey as well. Doblis is an example of perfumery that hasn’t been seen in many years.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of 2005 Doblis and a decant of 1955 Doblis I purchased.
Even the great perfume houses have their versions of unicorns. When it comes to Guerlain that rarest of rarities is 1926’s Djedi. Everything about Djedi is an outlier to the rest of Guerlain. Even so it is one of Jacques Guerlain’s greatest perfumes because it breaks most of the “rules” perfumes from Guerlain follow.
I think all artists want to try and move out of their comfort zone and test their vision. In what is purely conjecture on my part during the mid-1920’s many of the perfume houses were releasing leather fragrances, Chanel Cuir de Russie would be the standard bearer. I wonder if M. Guerlain also wanted his brand to also have its own leather. Up until that point in time Guerlain had not done a leather-based fragrance. M. Guerlain chose to construct Djedi on a vetiver core over which the animalic elements would be attached. For whatever the creative reasons Djedi is one of the driest leather chypres I have ever tried. It is that dryness which sets it apart. You can almost envision a perfume order which asks M. Guerlain to make me a dry leather straight, no Guerlinade. Which is precisely what he does.
Djedi opens on an aldehyde and muguet opening. The first time I smelled Djedi the sample had lost all of the aldehydes. In more recent tests I have been fortunate to try more well-preserved samples and the aldehydes suffuse the muguet with their sparkly brilliance. Even with these really good versions I can only imagine what a fresh bottle of Djedi must have smelled like with the aldehydes full of life. What I can smell tells me M. Guerlain wanted a ray of light on top before going very dark. I have mentioned how dry Djedi is and it starts right with the muguet which sometimes can have a bit of a dewy quality, not here. Any hint of watery has been excised. It gives the early going almost the feel of a sprig of muguet left in a desiccation jar to be dried. Next up was a huge application of civet which feels like an untamed thing stalking through my consciousness. This is what makes real civet so prized as it imparts a decadent filth to Djedi. Vetiver comes in and this is the driest vetiver you will encounter. The civet is given some counterbalancing floralcy courtesy of jamine, orris, and rose. They are shoved into a corner by the vetiver and civet and they peek though at odd moments like they are trying to make a hasty getaway. The leather accord in the base was made up of oakmoss, musk, and amber. Unlike most of the leathers of the day M. Guerlain eschewed using birch tar and his leather accord reaches an arid austerity because of it. For the great majority of the time Djedi is firmly placed in leather territory.
Djedi has 14-16 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.
Djedi was only produced in the 1920’s and except for a 1,000 bottle limited edition released on its 70th anniversary in 1996 that is all there is. Finding a bottle is complicated by the beautiful Art Deco bottle designed by Baccarat’s Georges Chevalier. The complication is for those who care only about the bottle and not the liquid inside this is also one of their unicorns. One of my most tragic stories is of being locked in a bidding war with someone who coveted the bottle and I was too slow to contact the winner and found out she had poured the contents down the drain. It is all of this which makes it so difficult to find a bottle.
If you ever have a chance to wear a drop or two do not pass it by you will find a perfume from Guerlain which feels very unlike the rest of the collection.
Disclosure: this review was based on multiple samples of Djedi I have acquired over the years from kind fellow perfume lovers.
While it would be logical to find a perfume inspired by actress, and perfumista, Catherine Deneuve to be one of the most sought after rarities; I would bet many would be shocked to find out it was an Avon product. What is arguably one of the greatest floral chypres ever made, Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve, did come from Avon.
It came from an Avon desperate to change its image in the late 1980’s. Avon was seen as products that your mother owned and the younger generation at that time wanted nothing to do with it. Who did they want to be like? A certain group of them wanted to be like Catherine Deneuve. Mme Deneuve had just starred in the art house horror movie The Hunger as the vampire Miriam Blaylock. Someone in the Avon corporate offices thought pairing Mme Deneuve and Avon in an attempt to make the first Avon branded perfume to be sold in department stores was a fantastic idea. It wasn’t. The door-to-door sales force of “Avon Ladies” complained that their customers would ask them for an Avon perfume they couldn’t sell. The price was above $150/oz. which was beyond aspirational at that time especially compared to the typical Avon perfume selling for less than $10. Avon had no contacts within the department store world and they were seen as arrogant interlopers and thus were blocked from getting the perfume onto fragrance counters around the country. Unable to find it and overpriced compared to other perfumes was a perfect combination for failure. Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve should have disappeared without a trace.
Catherine Deneuve in "The Hunger"
Except a few people got to smell it and it slowly, via word of mouth, became highly sought after. I tried it for the first time in the mid 1990’s when we were at a party discussing the most beautiful actresses and I called Mme Deneuve, “Brigitte Bardot with brains”. My hostess leaned into me and told me the perfume she was wearing was Catherine Deneuve’s perfume. I breathed in a sensual floral chypre hazed over with shots of green. It was heavenly. I would find my bottle of it in one of those mall kiosks with boxes of fragrance stacked upon each other a couple of years later. It is one of my most treasured bottles.
The development of the perfume, as put together from bits and pieces of interviews given by Mme Deneuve was as fraught with incompetence as the ill-conceived distribution plan. The business people couldn’t come to an agreement on what market they were shooting for and it left the perfume sort of stranded in olfactory development hell. Mme Deneuve and perfumer Jacques Veromel continued to work at it diligently. While all the arguing about marketing was going on; Mme Deneuve decided on a final mod. Once they stopped squabbling they found there was a finished perfume waiting for them.
Deneuve opens with a fizz of aldehydes grabbing your attention. Underneath is a green pairing of geranium and galbanum. M. Veromel uses the galbanum at first as a hazy veil of green. It intensifies but so too do the florals as jasmine, marigold, and orange blossom form the floral heart. M. Veromel hit the balance perfectly as the three florals along with the galbanum form an intensely green floral accord that is one of the great middle developments in perfumery. It all transitions into a traditional chypre base full of oakmoss and civet. This ending is everything that a perfume that says sexy to me should be.
Deneuve has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bottles of Deneuve rarely show up on the online auction sites and it is most often found as a mini. Please be careful when buying one of those. As I’ve mentioned in the past aldehydes are notorious for their volatility and in an unboxed mini you will get a Deneuve probably missing those top notes. With that caveat I would still tell you that the rest of the perfume is worth experiencing. I said it earlier and I will say it again Deneuve by Catherine Deneuve is one of the greatest floral chypres ever.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
Every ten years the British film magazine Sight & Sound asks a panel of critics to vote on the best movie ever made. For many years the film anointed as best of them all has been Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane”. Although in the most recent 2012 poll Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” nudged it down to number two on the list. The thing about lists like this is it reflects an extra level of scrutiny over whether the movie is interesting to watch. For my taste Vertigo is a much better film because I enjoy watching it more. Citizen Kane never emotionally engaged me. I admired all of the film techniques and the look of the film Mr. Welles pulled off. It was noteworthy because many of the camera techniques and framing were being done for the first time. In the end I have probably watched Citizen Kane four or five times. I’ve watched Vertigo dozens of times. When it comes to perfume I believe our equivalent to Citizen Kane is Shiseido Nombre Noir.
Shiseido Nombre Noir was released in 1982 composed by Shiseido in-house perfumer Jean-Yves Leroy under the nascent creative direction of Serge Lutens. Messrs. Leroy and Lutens decided to go very big with their composition and at the core was a precious osmanthus and an overdose of damascones. Damascones are one of the key components of rose oil. In rose oil they are the molecules which impart that jammy aspect of the best rose oils. On their own as a raw material they explode with kinetic vibrancy and it took an equally unique osmanthus to hold this together. It causes the early part of Nombre Noir to smell like the most expensive lipstick accord ever as another equally inspired choice of orris sets up this rich floral opening. It eventually softens into a really silky honey-based accord by the end.
Nombre Noir was discontinued supposedly due to the cost of producing the bottle which was a strikingly different design for the time period. The truth was more likely the choice of using the damascones in overdose. These molecules are very light sensitive and decompose rapidly upon exposure to light. In reality, the true smell of Nombre Noir is probably only experienced from a sealed bottle for the first few times you wear it. That amount of fragility of the damascones truly make Nombre Noir an unattainable object because even if you find a bottle it is almost surely decomposed. Luca Turin declared Nombre Noir one of the five greatest perfumes ever in his book “The Secret of Scent”. Mr. Turin is the perfume equivalent of the Sight & Sound poll. Bottles turned up carrying hefty price tags and I cringed at what these buyers were getting.
Nombre Noir is just like Citizen Kane for me as it never engages me emotionally. I am not sure something as full of stark planes of accords all intersecting in an abstract kind of snowflake is meant to be emotional. The engineering of balancing the notes and finding the right balance is admirable. There is beauty here but it is unapproachable for me. Ten years later M. Lutens would oversee a masterpiece for Shiseido which is both technically flawless and emotionally engaging in Feminite du Bois.
Disclosure: This review was based on multiple sample of Nombre Noir I purchased or had gifted to me.
When writing this series many of the perfumes I will write about are small batch rarities by our best perfumers. The subject of this one is rare because most of it was removed from circulation due to a corporate takeover. Back in 2003 the home fragrance company Slatkin & Co. wanted to branch out into fine fragrance and beauty products. The original three releases in their foray into the world of perfume were simply named Mimosa, Muguet, and Absinthe. Perfumer Christian Truc was responsible for Muguet and Christophe Laudamiel would create the remaining two. These fragrances barely had any time to find an audience because Slatkin & Co. were acquired by the parent company of Bath and Body Works in 2005. The brand was acquired because of the home fragrance products and these perfumes were just an aberration. With no place for them to go they pretty much just disappeared after less than two years on the market.
I wish I could say I was smart enough to have discovered them back when they were released but that wouldn’t be true. I didn’t become acquainted with Slatkin Absinthe until my Editor-in-chief at CaFleureBon, Michelyn Camen, gifted me a large decant of it. What I have is one of the most treasured fragrances in my entire collection. M. Laudamiel was coming off a year when he had been part of the team behind two very recognizable fragrances, Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce and Ralph Lauren Polo Blue. The two briefs for Slatkin were his first opportunity to fly solo as a perfumer.
What he created in Absinthe is not a literal interpretation of the wormwood flavored liquor. Instead it is a night at the Moulin Rouge complete with the bohemians of the time looking for The Green Fairy to inspire them.
Absinthe opens with the anise-flavored liquor on top. M. Laudamiel squeezes a fresh lime along with the tamarine citrus base and a sprig of mint. This is an exhilarating sinus clearing opening. It is like sipping from your glass of absinthe as you look up to take in the surroundings. The smell of the rose powder of the dancing girls, the slightly urinous character of honey, the sticky green quality of blackcurrant buds all form a heady accord of carnality to go with the absinthe. The base is a woody patchouli and M. Laudamiel made some interesting choices for his woods as there is cherry tree bark, candlewood, cashmere woods, maplewood and oakmoss. This woods accord with the patchouli makes up one of the more striking woody bases of any perfume I own. It is an early sign of M. Laudamiel’s intention to use more of the ingredients of his perfumer’s organ.
Absinthe has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I was already a fan of M. Laudamiel by the time I smelled Absinthe. It confirmed his incredible talents were present from his first moments as a perfumer. It is sad that the meager stock at the time of the acquisition was placed on discount shelves and that was it. Bottles show up very rarely on the auction sites. I have an alert for it and I would say on average two or three bottles will be available over the course of a year. Because it is such an oddity the prices are not worse than any new perfume you might purchase. I can say that if I was ever forced to pare down my voluminous collection to something much smaller there is no version which wouldn’t include Slatkin Absinthe.
Disclosure: This review is based on a decant which I received as a gift.
After writing about the Wes Anderson movie “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in this week’s The Sunday Magazine I got a lot of questions about the fragrance inspired by the movie. To answer those questions not only have I smelled it but perfumer Mark Buxton gave me enough of a sample of it to wear. After wearing L’Air de Panache and seeing the movie I have to say that Mr. Buxton given the freedom of composing what amounts to a bespoke perfume delivered a true fragrance experience every bit as indie as the movie it is based upon.
Gustave H”s Wardrobe
L’Air de Panache is the signature scent of the protagonist of the movie Gustave H., the concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel. As played by Ralph Fiennes, Gustave H. is a consummate concierge and the master of his universe. L’Air de Panache is how people know Gustave H. and it consistently keeps appearing throughout the film.
Mark Buxton (l.) and Nicolas Cloutier (Photo: makemylemonade.com)
When they were filming they, of course, used water. For the World Premiere Mr. Anderson wanted to turn L’Air de Panache into a reality to be given as a present to the cast and crew. For this very special project he would turn to the Paris fragrance boutique Nose to bring the fictional fragrance to life, in six weeks! Nicolas Cloutier would act as creative director to perfumer Mark Buxton as they sought to make a perfume which would live up to what we saw in the movie. Because this was a very small batch release, not intended for sale, it freed Mr. Buxton to use any ingredient on his perfumer’s palette. I would also comment that the short time frame forced Messrs. Cloutier and Buxton to trust their instincts and I think the end result is all the better for that. L’Air de Panache is a definite throwback cologne but, cleverly, throughout its development there are nods to the events of the film.
Boy with Apple
Gustave H. is known for his excellent personal service to the aging, blonde they must be blonde, women who come to the hotel. The beginning of L’Air de Panache pays homage to them with a fleeting aldehyde opening which is the hairspray version of those ingredients. They dissipate as quickly as a cloud of Aqua Net to reveal underneath a rich citrus opening made modern by the addition of basil, instead of the more traditional rosemary. The other note is green apple and that nods to the McGuffin which propels the caper part of the film, a painting simply named “Boy with Apple”. A stunningly complex jasmine sambac holds the heart of L’Air de Panache it is as elegant as Gustave H. as he strides the halls. This all gives way to a well-mannered jungle cat of a base as Mr. Buxton lets L’Air de Panache off the leash to growl with musk, castoreum, amber, oakmoss, and patchouli. This is Gustave H. behind a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the room of one of his paramours.
L’Air de Panache has 4-6 hour longevity and prodigious sillage. Which is why Gustave H. is always topping it up and everyone knows where he’s been.
For this series the fragrance I am writing about will truly be nearly impossible to find. In the case of L’Air de Panache I am hopeful this might not always be the case. To be clear right this moment there are only a few bottles of it in existence and they are all in the hands of the people who made the movie. Except if you find yourself in Paris and visit Nose they have a bottle for you to experience this quite amazing fragrance. Because of the top shelf ingredients used I suspect a bottle would carry a fairly hefty price tag but if it does come to pass that it is for sale one day I’ll be first in line to buy it. For now I have enough left to allow myself to feel like the master of my own universe for one day of my choosing; it is enough.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided to me by Mark Buxton.
There are fragrances out there that are among the best that you can get but they are limited in availability. These are the true quarry of the fragrant treasure hunters out there. Through fortune and the good graces of many in the perfume community I have been able to find many of these and have rarely been disappointed in the effort needed to procure them. While I don’t want to start a longing for something one can’t have I also want to let people know when you come across an opportunity to try one of these do not pass it up.
I have been thinking about Andy Tauer’s 2006 limited edition release Orris as I have just received my bottle of Josh Lobb’s equally limited edition slumberhouse Zahd. There are a lot of similarities between the two. Both Hr. Tauer and Mr. Lobb are fiercely independent perfumers uncompromising when it comes to their perfume. They both communicate in sporadic pictures and words about their creative process. I would say when I discovered Hr. Tauer’s blog back in 2006 it was eye-opening in the amount of insight he would provide on his creative process. It has always been a lot of fun to read Hr. Tauer’s posts leading up to eventually wearing one of his releases. In both perfumer’s cases it is much of what fuels my passion to cover perfume because their creativity is so approachable.
One of Hr. Tauer’s early posts in July 2006 described a limited edition he was working on called Orris. To read about it go this link and scroll down to the July 21, 2006 entry “layers and appearances”. In that post he explains that Orris is “like a facetted piece of jewelry, reflecting in all colours of the light”. It is that quality which makes Orris such a genius piece of perfumery. As he also mentions within that blog post Orris is one of the most mutable fragrances I have ever encountered as each person seems to pull their own unique version of it. Here’s what it does on my skin.
Orris opens with cinnamon, black pepper, and grapefruit which rapidly comingles with rose and orris. This is a fabulous beginning with the spices floating on top of the florals and the citrus adding some light. The orris is carried along with the cinnamon into a heart of frankincense. This is that very beautiful almost metallic frankincense and with the orris and cinnamon it is a marvelous combination and it is on this chord where Orris lingers for the longest time on my skin. Every time I wear it I realize there is nothing like it in my collection of iris fragrances. Once Orris does begin to head towards the base notes they are also a collection of rare woods: real Mysore sandalwood along with real oud and Australian sandalwood. Because of Hr. Tauer’s blog post this was one of the first times I was able to tease apart the two different varieties of sandalwood. Also remember that in 2006 oud was rarely used in fragrance so all of this added a level of uniqueness to the base of Orris. What I find interesting is even when I revisited Orris in 2014 to write this the entire composition still retains its singularity there has still been nothing like it.
Orris has all-day longevity and below average sillage.
When you are fortunate enough to find a young independent perfumer who you admire and they mention they are making a fragrance with one-of-a-kind ingredients; don’t think about it too long and buy it. I dithered over Orris and was never able to acquire a bottle. The small amounts I have are the generous gifts of fellow bloggers and perfume lovers. I have never seen an official number of how many bottles were produced but I do know Hr. Tauer is regularly asked whether he could reproduce it and he always politely replies, “No, the raw materials are unobtainable or too expensive now.” What is out there is all there is. Thankfully what is out there is a glorious fragrance experience amongst my very favorite ever from one of the very first independent perfumers.